Jeff Zelevansky

Red Bulls showing promise, but...

Welcome to the first edition of the Monday Morning Gaffer, where MLSsoccer.com writer Kristian Dyer offers an in-depth take on where things stand with the New York Red Bulls.

Four impressions from Saturday’s 3-1 win over Santos

-Joel Lindpere can run the midfield. The Estonian international’s signing this off-season was met with a collective “who?” from the New York faithful, most of whom were clamoring for a big-name creative midfielder to spark the attack. But watching Lindpere play, he can hit a nice ball and distribute to the wings, and also has some deft touches. Lindpere may not put up huge numbers or draw attention from the fans and media, but the types of plays he made again and again against Santos get results.

-Tim Ream is no ordinary rookie. His second-round selection in January’s draft left some fans scratching their heads, especially since bigger name defenders were still left on the draft board. In the friendly win over Santos, Ream showed very good positioning and perhaps, most importantly, a keen understanding with fellow centerback Mike Petke. If his debut on Saturday night was any indication, one has to wonder how long the countdown will be to the first post on BigSoccer.com to “Cap Tim Ream.”

-Mac Kandji struggled last season when former head coach Juan Carlos Osorio played him out of position on the wings or alone as a striker. Kandji is a withdrawn forward and proved that against Santos, playing well off trialist Ibrahim Salou and showing creativity and a nose for goal. Does the emergence of the “Kandji Man” mean that a big name forward signing is not needed this summer?

-Hans Backe downplayed the Santos result a bit after the match, but also emphasized that for a team which finished last in the league last year, winning any game is still important. This wasn’t the first-choice selection for Santos, but they are a team who was in mid-season form and proved a good test for New York. The result shouldn’t inspire dreams of a MLS Cup title quite yet, but optimism is back in New York.

Four thoughts heading into the season opener

-Bouna Coundoul is a fantastic talent in MLS, but he has often struggled with consistency. Will the same keeper show up against the Fire after a stellar game against Santos? Coundoul does boast the advantage of a full off-season of work with the Red Bulls’ goalkeeper coach Des McAleenan, the best in the league.

-Roy Miller looked confident in his movement forward, although his forays up the field were few and far between. Last season, the Costa Rican international looked to boot the ball upfield as quickly as possible, often bypassing the midfield. Chicago can’t expect this year’s team to be quite so fast to unleash the ball as the team they faced last year.

-The Fire is a team in flux. This past off-season, the Fire lost forward Chris Rolfe to Europe and Cuauhtemoc Blanco returned to Mexico, not to mention the mid-summer loss of Bakary Soumare to France. It will take some time for this team to form an identity under new head coach Carlos de los Cobos. Like New York, they may appear disjointed as both clubs play in a game that really matters.

-Red Bull Arena should provide a true homefield advantage for the Red Bulls, something the club never enjoyed while as a tenant at Giants Stadium. Saturday’s game against Santos saw a mixed crowd, with many of the Brazilians from the nearby Ironbound area of Newark openly cheering for both Santos and New York. The MLS opener should be a crowd solidly behind New York and the presence of a true 12th man at Harrison could potentially give the Red Bulls the most passionate and vocal crowd in the league.

Two questions

-Seth Stammler was once a rock in the midfield and a face of the franchise, having burst onto the scene late in 2006 as a rookie. But if he didn’t even make the substitute’s bench against Santos, are Stammler’s days with New York numbered?

-Sinisa Ubiparipovic played the full game against Santos and switched from the wing to a more defensive role in the second half. Does this mean that he has a roster spot for the early part of the season?